The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Sleeping Cupid
  • Attributed to Barthélemy Prieur (c. 1536 - 1611)
  • Sleeping Cupid
  • France
  • c. 1600
  • Figure
  • Brassy copper alloy, lost-wax cast. Cast in one piece. Ebonised wood (plinth).
  • Length: 12.4 cm
  • S134
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The general inspiration for this bronze figure of a sleeping Cupid can be found in numerous antique marbles representing the Roman god of Love, often asleep on Hercules’ lion skin which the hero had tossed aside to woo his love interest, Omphale. Though until very recently thought to be Italian, the elongated proportions of the body, smooth surfaces contrasted by fine details, and characteristic treatment of the curls of hair all point to French sculptor Barthélemy Prieur as the author of this model.

    These characteristics are shared by a group of bronze figures and groups by the same artist in our Collection (see, for example, S128–S130).

    Prieur was a gifted bronze sculptor and his posthumous inventory, published in 1949, lists a series of small-scale bronze statuettes of men and women as well as numerous functional objects in the classicising style. He trained in Rome, where he had ample oportunity to study antique sculpture, and worked in Turin before moving to Paris, where from 1594 he worked for king Henri IV.

    In the inventory of royal garden designer André Le Notre, drawn in 1700 and containing helpful descriptions of many bronze models identified with surviving casts now generally attributed to Prieur, is also a group consisting of a sleeping Cupid with an older boy looking over him. Few versions of this group have survived (one was on the art market in 2012), whereas the individual figures seem to have been cast separately more frequently, as in the case of our Sleeping Cupid.